The issue of inheritance is a substantial issue addressed by Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) in his comprehensive sermon in the Farewell pilgrimage. He said, “Allah, the Almighty, has given each person, who has a right, his right, but there is no bequest for an heir” (Reported by Ibn Majah in his Sunan).
Allah, the Almighty, Himself, has determined the shares of each heir and has not left this duty to any. Allah, the Almighty, says, “Allah instructs you concerning your children: for the male, what is equal to the share of two females. But if there are [only] daughters, two or more, for them is two thirds of one’s estate. And if there is only one, for her is half. And for one’s parents, to each one of them is a sixth of his estate if he left children. But if he had no children and the parents [alone] inherit from him, then for his mother is one third. And if he had brothers [or sisters], for his mother is a sixth, after any bequest he [may have] made or debt. Your parents or your children – you know not which of them are nearest to you in benefit. [These shares are] an obligation [imposed] by Allah. Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and Wise” (the Qur‘ān, 4: 11).
The Qur‘ān does not only determine the shares of heirs, but it also promises punishments to those who allow themselves to infringe on these rights. Allah, the Almighty, concludes verses on the shares of heirs by His saying, “These are the limits [set by] Allah, and whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger will be admitted by Him to gardens [in Paradise] under which rivers flow, abiding eternally therein; and that is the great attainment. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger and transgresses His limits – He will put him into the Fire to abide eternally therein, and he will have a humiliating punishment” (the Qur‘ān, 4: 13-14).
The Qur‘ān denounces the people of ignorance for devouring the rights of some heirs without right; He says, “No! But you do not honor the orphan. And you do not encourage one another to feed the poor. And you consume inheritance, devouring [it] altogether, And you love wealth with immense love. No! When the earth has been leveled – pounded and crushed – And your Lord has come and the angels, rank upon rank, And brought [within view], that Day, is Hell – that Day, man will remember, but what good to him will be the remembrance? He will say, “Oh, I wish I had sent ahead [some good] for my life.” So on that Day, none will punish [as severely] as His punishment, And none will bind [as severely] as His binding [of the evildoers]” (the Qur‘ān, 89: 17-26). Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said, “Whoever withholds the inheritance that Allah and His Messenger have decreed, Allah will deprive him of his inheritance in Paradise.”
It is narrated that a man deprived his daughter of inheritance. She waited until he passed away and entered upon him when he was bathed after death. She looked at him and said, “O Allah, You know that he deprived me of some pleasures of this world and I ask You to deprive him of the delight of the hereafter.”
Depriving women of their inheritance may take place on unreasonable grounds or old customs and traditions that have no foundation in the Islamic Sharī‘ah. The man who denies someone their due rights and favors another is similar to a person who thinks himself more knowledgeable of worthy and deserved interests of people than the Lord of the worlds, the Most Just Judge, Who creates everything in this world. It implies that he is not pleased by the way with which Allah determines the shares and claims that he has a better way for distribution of inheritance shares, God forbid. If he believes that the shares that Allah has determined in His Mighty Book are the best, he will not interfere and favor a person and deprive another.
As for women generally, be they mothers, sisters, wives, daughters or otherwise, Islam prohibits us from preventing them from marriage, wronging them or devouring their rights. Allah enacts that justice, which men shall show to women, and indiscrimination between daughters and sons are the means to earn the Divine Pleasure and Paradise. Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said, “Whoever has a female child, and does not bury her alive, or slight her, or prefer his children (i.e. the male ones) to her, Allah will bring him into Paradise.” This tradition implies lofty meanings and eloquence as the Prophet used the relative pronoun “whoever” which indicates generality and comprehensiveness. He also used the noun “female” and not the noun “daughter” because “female” is more general as it includes all females, such as daughters, sisters, granddaughters and others.
Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) advised us to take care of women, honor them and treat them well in several occasions. The Prophet says in the divine tradition, Allah says: “Obey me in protecting the rights of the two weak ones: Orphans and women.”
The Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) also said, “Whoever has three daughters and is patient towards them, and feeds them, gives them to drink, and clothes them from his wealth; they will be a shield for him from the Fire on the Day of Resurrection.”
The Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) also said in another narration: “Whoever has two daughters or sisters” and in a third narration: “If it were a single daughter that was educated and treated well by her guardian, she would be a shield for him from the Fire on the Day of Resurrection.” A man was sitting with the Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) when his son came to him. He held his son, kissed him and put him in his lab. His daughter then came. He held her and put her beside him. Prophet Muhammad, said to him, “You did not treat them equally” i.e. he should have put the girl on his lap just as he placed the son.
It is noticeable in our contemporary world that some kinds of nasty discrimination occur; some families prefer sons to daughters and give more attention to boys’ education. In inheritance, girls are either totally deprived of their rights or they are given less than what is rightfully due to them, which is falsely called compensation. In fact, it has nothing to do with real compensation, but it is a kind of silencing, oppression and deception which you may call as you like except being a compensation or enforcing what is right or a fair implementation or distribution of shares in line with the divine Sharī‘ah’s truth, justice and laws.